Depression is a mood disorder where you feel very down all the time. Depression can happen as a reaction to an event, but it can also run in families.

It is one of the most common types of mental illness and it does not only affect adults. Children and young people can get depressed too.

There is no one single factor that will lead to the onset of depression, genes and family tendencies can play a part but there are also many other factors that can act as potential triggers which may prompt depression.  Sometimes depression is triggered by 1 difficult event, such as parents separating, a bereavement or problems with school or other children.  Often it is caused by a mixture of things.

Young People are often moody and uncommunicative, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they are depressed. These behaviours can just be part of typical adolescence, related to hormonal changes, brain development and trying to find their place in the world as they grow from children into young people.  Some young people, however, get stuck in the turmoil or overwhelmed by it. They can find the changes they are going through just too much to cope with.

Signs of depression in young people often include;

  • sadness, or a low mood that does not go away
  • being irritable or grumpy all the time
  • not being interested in things they used to enjoy
  • feeling tired and exhausted a lot of the time
  • having trouble sleeping or sleeping more than usual
  • not being able to concentrate
  • interacting less with friends and family
  • being indecisive
  • not having much confidence
  • eating less than usual or overeating
  • having big changes in weight
  • seeming unable to relax or be more lethargic than usual
  • talking about feeling guilty or worthless
  • feeling empty or unable to feel emotions (numb)
  • having thoughts about suicide or self-harming

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, all group sessions are currently being delivered online to ensure that we meet with current government and medical advice and to protect the health and safety of participants and research staff.

The READY Trial is a randomised controlled trial (RCT) of exercise in young people living with depression or low mood.

The aim of our research study is to find out whether physical activity is an effective treatment approach for young people with depression. We will recruit young people, aged 13-17 years, diagnosed with depression or low mood, from the NHS including Child & Adolescent Mental Health Services, Community Services, and GP practices.

Young people assessed as suitable for exercise will be allocated randomly (e.g. throwing a dice) to one of 3 groups to undertake:

  1. High intensity exercise, through vigorous activities (e.g. boxercise, interval training)
  2. Low intensity exercise, through moderate activities (e.g. chair based exercises, strengthening or pilates exercises)
  3. An active control of social non-exercise activities (e.g. quizzes, Pictionary)

The young people in groups 1 & 2 will be offered 2 x 60-minute exercise sessions per week for 12 weeks. The young people in group 3 will also meet for 2 x 60-minute sessions each week.   All groups will receive additional support on healthy living. All sessions will be delivered by Registered Exercise Professionals (REP). A mental health support worker (MHSW) will also be present at each session to provide support for the young people.

The research team will collect information from the young people at the start, and at 3 and 6 months. This will include questions about mood (including depression), quality of life, sleep, self-esteem, service use, impact on families, medical conditions and drug use, session attendance and changes in physical activity. We will interview some young people and REPs to understand their experience of the exercise sessions and participation.

We tend to want to help the ones we love and tell them how they can change, often when we get frustrated. We can be more helpful by using active and reflective listening and engaging in conversations with open-ended questions. Open questions begin with words such as ‘What’, ‘How’, and ‘Who’, and allow the young person to explore their inner experiences and with no ‘right answers’.

You can also discuss concerns and anxieties using a conversational style and challenge the evidence for negative thinking (e.g. when was there a time you overcame a similar challenge?). It is important during these conversations to try to reinforce positive thinking, reflect on past successes, and encourage ‘I CAN’ thoughts and talk.

Self-care

It is important to empower your child, or the young person you care for, to find ways to look after their own mental health. This is not a substitute for seeking professional help, however it may support them when used alongside support from mental health services or while you are waiting.

Visit the Anna Freud Centre webpage for a variety of strategies that you can encourage and support your child to try at home.

https://www.annafreud.org/on-my-mind/self-care/

Resilience

Resilience is the ability to recover quickly from challenges or difficulties.

However, it is not just your ability to bounce back, but also your capacity to adapt in the face of challenging circumstances, whilst maintaining a stable mental wellbeing. Resilience isn’t a personality trait – it’s something that we can all take steps to achieve.

Encourage your child to develop their emotional resilience by;

  • Making some lifestyle changes
  • Develop interests and hobbies
  • Make time for friends
  • Explore relaxation techniques
  • Looking after their physical health
  • Get enough sleep
  • Be active
  • Eat healthily
  • Give themselves a break
  • Reward themselves for achievements
  • Take a change in scenery
  • Forgive themselves for mistakes
  • Build their support network
  • Talk to friends and family
  • Support at school
  • Their GP
  • Specialist websites and organisations

Affirmations

Daily positive affirmations can help build emotional resilience.  Try getting your child to repeat some of these daily or choose one per day to focus on and get them to think of an example of when they have displayed this quality.

  • I am strong
  • I am clever
  • I am beautiful
  • I am brave
  • I am kind
  • I am loved
  • I believe in myself
  • I can do hard things
  • I can make good choices
Organisations

If you are experiencing mental health issues or are worried about your child or a child that you care for please find a list of websites below which can offer you information and contact details should you need support:

https://youngminds.org.uk/

https://youngminds.org.uk/find-help/for-parents/parents-guide-to-support-a-z/parents-guide-to-support-depression-and-low-mood/

https://youngminds.org.uk/find-help/your-guide-to-support/guide-to-camhs/

https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/for-children-and-young-people/

If you feel you need urgent help please call 111 to talk to someone, contact your GP or the contacts in this link can help you: https://youngminds.org.uk/find-help/get-urgent-help/

https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/for-children-and-young-people/information-for-parents/

Courses

The following courses are available online and are free to take.

https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/depression-young-people

This course has been specifically created for parents of young people with depression and low mood, teachers and primary (or other) healthcare professionals who play a role in detecting mental health difficulties and offering appropriate support and guidance to young people.

https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/young-people-mental-health

This course has been created for young people aged over 14 wanting to know more about mental health. It might also be of interest to parents, caregivers, teachers and medical professionals.

https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/low-mood-during-covid-19

This course is helpful for young people with low mood and depression and their parents and carers, or anyone who has contact with young people during COVID-19.

https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/youth-mental-health-during-covid-19

This course is designed for teachers, supporters, guardians, and parents of children affected by the current COVID-19 situation.

If you would like to find out more about the research study please contact us using the form below or via email: readytrial@herts.ac.uk